Thursday, August 28, 2014

We will not banish AIDS until we banish stigma

Eugene comes to a drop-in center for men who have sex with men.

This originally appeared on the ONE Campaign Blog on July 23, 2014.

Earlier this year, I met Eugene and Dominique at a drop-in center for men who have sex with men (MSM) outside Nairobi, Kenya.

Eugene, 23, comes to the center regularly to get condoms, lubricants and HIV counseling and testing, and has brought other gay men to the center. So far, he is HIV-negative.

Dominique, 26, also frequents the center. He was treated for a sexually-transmitted infection, and gets tested there every month. He, too, is HIV-negative.

In Kenya, most gay men are very much in the closet, due to the strong stigma against them. Many of these men would not have access to health services if not for the handful of drop-in centers in Nairobi, Kisumu and other urban centers for the simple reasons that most health facilities are not gay-friendly. Quite the contrary. Thus, most MSM have no access to gay-friendly services.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New momentum to end preventable child and maternal deaths by 2013

A six-year-old girl in a small village in Nicaragua. Photo: David J. Olson

This originally appeared on Global Health TV on July 22, 2014.

In June 2012, the governments of Ethiopia, India and the U.S., in collaboration with UNICEF, hosted the “Child Survival: Call to Action,” designed to focus the disparate priorities of the global health world into a single, achievable goal of ending preventable child deaths by 2035.

Much progress has been made in the last two decades – the total number of child deaths fell from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. And maternal mortality worldwide dropped by 45% between 1990 and 2013, according to the World Health Organization, from 523,000 deaths in 1990 to 289,000 in 2013.

However, there are still unacceptably high levels of maternal and child mortality, as shown in this terrific infographic, and the status quo will not get us where we need to be — the elimination of preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035.

We are not making particularly good progress towards Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 on child and maternal health, which expire in 2015. Out of the 24 high-priority countries on which the U.S. Agency for International Development focuses, only six countries have achieved MDG 4 (Bangladesh, Malawi, Nepal, Liberia, Tanzania and Ethiopia) and only two have achieved MDG 5 (Rwanda and Nepal).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

AIDS-free generation will not be achieved without more investment in harm reduction

Abubakar, an injecting drug user since 1989, receives a safe injecting kit in Nairobi, in a project supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

This was originally published on the Huffington Post on July 21, 2014.
NAIROBI, Kenya -- In 2010, the United Nations announced that an AIDS-free generation was achievable if we focused on the most disadvantaged communities.
Almost four years later, three leading harm reduction organizations are telling us we are not paying enough attention to one of those communities -- people who inject drugs (PWID) -- and that "an AIDS-free generation will not be possible" if the rate and pace of investment in harm reduction continues.
Harm reduction is a range of public health policies designed to reduce the harmful consequences associated with, in this case, injecting drug use.
To coincide with the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, Harm Reduction International, the International Drug Policy Consortium and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance are publishing a report that says that due to changing donor policies, HIV prevention services for PWID are not being prioritized and this failure to invest will bring an exponential rise in HIV transmission which will impose much higher costs on governments and donors.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What are the keys to family planning success in Africa?

This was originally published on the Global Health TV website on June 24, 2014.
In the last 20 years, Ethiopia has emerged as a family planning powerhouse. In Studies in Family Planning, I reported that, from 1990 to 2011, modern contraceptive use increased ninefold, from 2.9% to 27.3%, and the total fertility rate (the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime) dropped from 7.0 to 4.8.

Now Ethiopia’s reputation has been further burnished by the results of a report released May 27th by Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) that show an increase in the use of modern contraception from 27.3% in 2011 to 33.3% in 2014 and a drop in the fertility rate from 4.8% to 4.4%.

Four Central Determinants of Success

This prompts the question: What are the factors that lead to family planning success? And what are the factors that stall such progress? Our article in Studies in Family Planning identified four determinants of success in Ethiopia. I suspect that many, if not all of these, ring true elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Global health needs more strange bedfellows, unorthodox partnerships

Puppets walking into the audience at the SwitchPoint conference in Saxapahaw, North Carolina.
The was originally published on the Huffington Post on July 14, 2014.
In Tanzania, the non-profit group IntraHealth International works with a cotton gin to provide circumcision services to their male employees and collaborates with local police to bring together 400 motorcycle taxi drivers to learn about road safety and HIV prevention. Both projects are funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The African Christian Health Associations Platform, based in Kenya, is working with Novo Nordisk and Johnson & Johnson that provide Christian health associations in several countries with technical support, training and drugs to combat diseases like diabetes, HIV and opportunistic infections.
Those are examples of an increasingly common approach to development. It used to be that a donor would sit down with the ministry of health to work out the design and implementation of a new global health initiative, with no significant input or involvement of other stakeholders. Those days, thankfully, are long gone.
Nowadays, it's widely recognized that more stakeholders need to be consulted, both in the design and the execution of an intervention. Does this make the process more messy and complicated? It sure does, but this messiness is essential to take global health to the next level.